If the Theory of Evolution has been one of the most powerful and far-reaching ideas to enterhuman consciousness in the past few hundred years, then the theory of punctuated equilibrium is among the most intriguing of refinements on the theory. In essence, this gloss on the Theory suggests that evolution generally proceeds gradually, but from time to time there are dramatically rapid changes that occur in species over much shorter periods.
Certainly, odd combinations of hardware, software and service providers were everywhere at Computex. In addition to the traditional systems consumers have known for years — those that run Microsoft’s Windows operating system on top of an Intel chip — computer makers showed off devices that rely on glorified cellphone chips and Google’s Android operating system.Machines with touch screens dangled the promise of escaping the tyranny of the keyboard in favor of intuitive finger-pointing. And, in back rooms, phone companies aggressively promoted tiny computers that bridge the gap between smartphones and laptops.
This month, consumers will start to see a fresh crop of cheap, thin, ultra-light notebooks arrive at chains like Wal-Mart Stores and Best Buy. Top-of-the-line computers in this category used to cost around $2,000, but the newer products will sell for less than $600.Too expensive? The computer industry offers other options. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and Asustek Computer are introducing lines of netbooks, the sub-$400 laptops aimed at simple tasks.And if all you want to do is browse the Web, the latest netbooks shown here, built around cellphone chips, can display high-definition video and still last for up to 18 hours on a single charge. They should start appearing in stores this fall for less than $150 and weigh less than two pounds.
At the feathery end of the weight scale, Asustek, the Taiwanese company that created netbooks, even promoted a computer that is just a keyboard with a small screen attached to its right side. The keyboard connects wirelessly to the Internet and lets people crank away at their e-mail, instant messages and documents.On the show floor, it seemed that anything with a display took on laptop-like functions. There were pads to scribble on, smart photo frames that connected to the Web and videoconferencing systems aimed at consumers rather than corporate customers.Some of the products ran Windows, some ran Android software and some ran software that most people have never heard about. The “Intel inside” notion still held for most of the machines, but quite a few had Snapdragon from Qualcomm, Tegra from Nvidia and Ion, also Nvidia, chips inside, too.Even on the larger, more traditional PCs, the beige box has given way to computers with LCD panels, touch-screen software and decorated cases — some with floral patterns meant to appeal to a woman.